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to their retired dwellings, their curiosity, like Crusoe's, is left to seek for whatever of gratification its own little island may chance to afford ; and as strange incidents must necessarily be scarce in such a sphere, their value is proportionally enhanced and benevolently reciprocated by the whole community. There is no monopoly of the marvellous there, but all are partakers of its grateful bounty. The lovers who plighted their troth at midnight in the hush of the moonlit grove, may think themselves peculiarly fortunate, if they are not waked in the morning by the rumor of their approaching nuptials. A whisper in secret places takes the rising inflexion,' and presently is heard reverberating on all sides like the report of a culverin. If a stranger appear upon the hills, the dwellers of the valley go up to the house-tops to take an observation of his bearing; if in the valley, the mountaineers lean over the ledges, to see what new-comer has entered the lowlands. The man in the iron mask, yea, he of the claret-colored coat,' could not have maintained their incognito a single week, in the searching focus of rural curiosity. There is no great unknown' in the country.
* But in the city, the selfish, man-made city, it is all the reverse. Here every individual feels himself just clever enough to manage his own concerns, and just benevolent enough to leave his neighbors the enjoyment of the same privilege. His appetite for news is never doomed to the horrors of a country lent, for thousands are catering marvels in his behalf, and at every turn the gazette and the bulletin, the penny-post and the placard, invite him to the full-furnished banquet. The only wonder is, that he does not become surfeited with the never-ending repast, and that purblind philosophers should have left it to my modest sagacity to give the first true definition of man; namely, a sempiternal devourer of prodigies. Now as these vital commodities are amply provided in the metropolis, the citizen may concentrate his whole mind on other wares and cares which swell the invoice of his bustling life. And thus absorbed in the microcosm of self, what wonder if the mighty and multitudinous world around him heaves to and fro the while as uncared for as the man in the moon ? Perchance not one in thousands could upbraid him for his unfeeling abstraction, without a ready replication from the divinity within. Each has his, gloomy familiar in the demon of care, invisible yet ever present, engrossing his every thought, and paralyzing all the sympathies which tend to associate his being in kindly reciprocation with the kindred hearts around him. With introverted
passes on amid the crowds that pass him with equal inobservance, each forgetting each, or remembering but to illustrate the truth of that old maxim, which teaches that there is no friendship in trade' cordial sociality in the greetings of the market-place.
Now it is not this amiable exhibition of humanity that leads me to prefer a residence in town to one in the country; but the opportunity afforded me by the self-concentration of the busy multitude, to loiter along the pilgrimage of life, unannoyed by curiosity, unknown and unobserved the hermit of a crowd. The country, with all its groves and grottoes, affords no solitude like this. No foot but my own ever crosses the threshhold of my lonely attic, except on the eve of the new-moon, or when I chance upon some forlorn creature,
whose wretchedness of destitution my humble hospitality can for a while alleviate. My immediate neighbors, including my landlord of fifteen years, know me but by externals, and take no note of my loiterings; and I much doubt if Hays himself could syllable my name, or point the way to my hermitage. I have no occasion for the 'magic robe' of Prospero; for the deep guise of poverty renders me invisible at noon-day, even to those who once lived on my bounty; and I pass on through the crowd unquestioned and unnoticed, yet scanning with thoughtful curiousness its living phases. No one stops me to inquire whence I came, or whither I go. No one knows, or cares to know, the quality of my bread and butter, or whether I eat my egg from a tumbler, or have a penchant for a silver fork. No one points me out to his wondering neighbor as an ungrateful anathematizer of the blessings of a bountiful Providence, or an epicurian abuser of those same multifold blessings.
* Therefore commend me to a city life, for as solitude consists not so much in loneliness as in being let alone, it is here that loaferism, which is but another name for the philosophy of enjoyment, finds its amplest charter, its calmest, sunniest, and most congenial home. Yet, think not I despise the dwellers of the country, or am ignorant of their many excellencies. Though I like not their reciprocal inquisitiveness, and the consequent mutuality of knowledge which is too prone to gossip of the fire-side concernments of every household, I do like their simplicity of manners, their keen moral sense, their expansive community of sympathy, their cordial interest in each other's welfare, and the visible assurance of peacefulness, innocence, and content, which beams from the general aspect of rural society. Yet is there no hermitage within that quiet Eden for him who would commune with meditation alone. But in the city, every dwelling is a cloister, and its inmates, to all but a favored few, are as a different caste of anchorets, as inaccessible and uncompanionable to all others, as the Brahman to the Pariah. Here he may be a recluse indeed - as forgotten of the world around him, as if it had bathed in the waters of Lethe, or fed on the fabled mandragora whose taste was oblivion.
* Did you observe,' inquired the eremite, after a momentary pause, " that gentlemanly person who just passed up the avenue ?'
* I did,' said I, and I noticed that he kept his eyes averted the while, as if he did not care to look on the face of strangers.'
'Stranger !' repeated the old man, with a brief, sad smile, it is even so. Yet that same genteel stranger in my sunnier days, I took from the alms-house an outcast and anonymous foundling, gave him a home and a name, clothed, educated, and at last established him in honorable business, and every thing has flourished with him, as you see, except the grateful memory of a stranger's kindness : that has faded inversely with the bloom of his prosperity, till at length it has vanished in such utter forgetfulness of his benefactor, that to recognise me now, would seem marvellously like a miracle. And after all, had I the mnemonic power of an upbraiding conscience, I would not seek to rëestablish myself in his memory. My wounded pride indeed prompts me at times to disquiet the obliviousness of those who have had cause to remember my friendship; but I soon soothe
the importunate passion with the assurance, that their recognition would but disturb the calm enjoyment of that solitude which is dearer to my heart than the favor of princes. Surely, I ought not to blame those whose slumbering memories serve only to enhance the happiness of my closer seclusion. Experti sumus ego ac amici; and since indigence and affluence are rarely boon companions, let us hope we may meet rarely, and part speedily, or, in the language of Shakspeare, I do desire we may be better strangers.'
* And can it be,' said I,' that you thus stand aloof from all with whom yon once associated in friendly intimacy ??
'It is not I that stand aloof from my former companions, but rather they from me. There are, however, among
many thousands of this metropolis, three of my early mates whose companionship I still cherish as the sweetest solace of my darkling age. We were all once classmates at the university ; in after years all equally affluent; and still later in life, all reduced by a kindred misfortune to that fellowship of indigence so conducive to the best development of friendship. The wreck of our former affluence left us still the means of a humble competence, and having none left to toil for, each bade adieu to the excitements of ambition, and retired to the quiet seclusion of an attic. Naturally drawn together by mutual sympathies and associations, we soon after united ourselves in a sort of club, which meets on every new moon at some one of our quaternian cloisters. On these occasions, each throws aside at the threshhold the pack of cares which the last month may have accumulated on his shoulders, and brings in for the evening's entertainment only the flowers and fruits it has been his fortune to gather during the last stage of his pilgrimage. And while the song is sung, the tale told, or the essay read; while the aroma of Cuba mingles its sweet etfluence with the rosy breath of Madeira ; we who there luxuriate, if not venerably wise, are at least innocently merry; and when the hour of retiring comes, the shadow of a guilty conscience never darkens the path to our peaceful dwellings. The world calls us loafers, and not dissatisfied with the appellation, we have styled our fraternity the Loafers' Club.'
• Would that a youthful stranger,' said I, inquiringly, "might be admitted to your feasts of reason and flow of soul.'
• This may not be,' was the expected reply : 'our magic circle is impassable to all but that grim Phantom, whose advent none can bar. Since, however, your frequent loiterings of a summer afternoon in this our chosen paradise, prove you not devoid of the leaven of loaferism, we may grant you this questionable favor, to examine at leisure the record of our motley communings. It is a kind of literary blotter, where I have jotted down the minutes of our 'sayings and doings' — tales, essays, translations, glimpses of biography and topography, dramatic adumbrations, excerpts from our college portfolios, songs, sonnets, and other symptoms of prose run mad – interspersed with criticisms, and garnished with quotations. The perusal of this odd medley is not interdicted to so promising a brother Easy as yourself. So come to my sky-parlor in street, whenever your curiosity prompts you to enter upon the unpromising task.'
• Thanks to your generous confidence, I will do so this very even
ing,' I gratefully replied, and with the hope moreover, that you will permit me to make an occasional extract for the public eye.'
• Be that as you will,' smiled the quiet dreamer, evidently pleased with the suggestion; and after a warm pressure of the hand, I left him to the wrapt enjoyment of those auroral visions of fame, those bright, brief meteors of the mind, which play so illusorily with the ready credulity of untried authorship. Alas, human vanity! in what one bosom of all earth's many millions, hast thou not an altar and a home! New-York, August, 1836.
AN AUTUMN LAY.
In life's proud dreams I have no part,
No share in its resounding glee
Are in the grave with thee.
Away! - away, from book and pen!
I cannot coin my brain to-day;
I cannot be their — Whai care they !
Its furrows in the ample brow,
The heart that dares but to aspire,
And Age come long before we're old :
And struggled with the strong and bold -
shrine we may bow down,
Yet, if we heap and hourd not gold,
Away! from book and pen away!
That rise above our noble river!
That tinkle down their sides forever!
Of what they are, and what should be —
One moment on futurity:
The present hath so much of gloom :
'Tis but the mockery of life !
Where ends it? --- only in the tomb.
The tomb ! dear mother, unto thine
If ever in my wandering mind
Mother - dear mother — from my heart,
While threading life's bewildering path,
And torture, till it turns in wrath ;
Mother -- dear mother - it may be !
A tone of mind, till now unknown -
Which lulls me with its fitful moan,
And muttering of thai home of bliss,
To light thy way from this.
More soft and heavenly grown;
Í tread them not alone :
A guardian angel unto me!
W. D. G.